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Pointing to the Blue House

Dec 23,2019
Prosecutors’ investigation of the Blue House’s possible meddling in the Ulsan mayoral election in June last year is rapidly expanding. In the beginning, the suspicions centered on whether the presidential office ordered a probe of corruption involving then-Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon, a former lawmaker of the opposition Liberty Korea Party. But the investigation is now digging into the possibility of the Blue House having interfered with the local election.

Suspicions are growing that the Blue House attempted to dissuade rivals of current Ulsan Mayor Song Cheol-ho from participating in a primary to pick the ruling Democratic Party (DP)’s candidate for the mayoral race. In an interview, Lim Dong-ho — a former senior member of the DP and Song’s rival in the primary — said that the Blue House recommended he choose other posts. “When I replied that I wanted to serve as consul general of Osaka, Japan, the presidential office offered the post of consul general of Kobe, Japan,” he said. Later, he backed down and said it was not an official proposal from the Blue House. Yet he said he had discussed the matter with then-Presidential Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok, South Gyeongsang Governor Kim Kyung-soo and a former senior presidential secretary for political affairs. We wonder if the post of consul general can be offered as a quid pro quo for resigning from candidacy.

The prosecution is also looking into the possibility of the Blue House having intervened in the election in an outrageous way. Prosecutors suspect that it tried to help Song polish up his campaign commitments while putting the brakes on then-Mayor Kim’s promise to set up a local hospital specifically aimed at treating patients from industrial accidents. Circumstantial evidence suggests that aides to Song — current Ulsan Mayor — discussed the issue with Blue House officials in Seoul. As it turned out, his rival Kim’s plan to set up such a hospital collapsed 16 days before the election after the government disapproved it in a preliminary feasibility study.

All suspicions point to the Blue House. Political circles have raised the suspicion that the presidential office methodically collaborated with Song ahead of the local election to help Song — a close friend of President Moon Jae-in — get elected as mayor of the city. If such suspicions prove true, Blue House officials involved should be punished on charges of violating the Public Official Election Act.

Former President Park Geun-hye was sentenced to a jail term for having ordered a preliminary opinion poll to help her loyalists get elected in the 2016 general elections. If the Moon administration really committed such a brazen act ahead of the local election, that constitutes a crime of desecrating the basic principles of democracy. The Blue House must tell the truth before it is too late.